Hi all! Happy late-night N7 day to all! It's been ages since I wanted to post this chapter, but I guess work and my distractions don't help to push it faster. Well, here's hoping for me to post more chapters by the end of the year. Maybe if I push myself hard enough, I can get to finish the story... who knows. Talk to guys later.

Chapter 21: Sins of a Father

The ride from the Rayya to the Alarei was silent, as both Tali and John knew what awaited them once the shuttle docked. John knew finding Tali's father, be it alive or dead, meant a lot to her, but they also needed to focus on finding evidence to prove Tali's innocence because if they didn't, then she would be considered a traitor to her people, and condemned to live as an exile, which neither of the pair wanted to happen as this would, in a way, break the spirit of John's loved one and as a consequence, he would forever feel guilty. Tali wouldn't blame him, knowing John's determination when it comes to her, but it would be a constant reminder both would have to deal with as their lives continued.

Evidence to prove Tali's innocence... thought John. Will we even find it? And if we don't, how would Tali's life turn if she ended up exiled? John suddenly felt a hand on top of his, causing him to turn to his left.

"It will be alright, John," assured Tali. "We'll find my father and the evidence we need," she said in a sort of calmy manner.

"I should be saying that to you," replied John with a smile.

"Then change whatever thoughts you have in your head. They're making you look like I'm already exiled."

"Sorry. Just thinking about the situation. How things can go right, but also wrong."

"Then we will find a way to fix them, right?" Tali squeezed her hand against John, who reciprocated the action. Suddenly a clamping noise was heard, which meant the shuttle docked with the Alarei, and the time they were given began going down.

"I guess that's our cue," said John. "You ready?" Tali took a deep breath and looked toward the shuttle's doors.

"I'd be lying if I told you I am," she admitted.

"I'll be right next to you. No matter what," reminded John. Tali lovingly smiled. With no more words to say, they each readied their weapons and walked out of the shuttle.

The docking bay hall was empty and disorganized but somewhat clean, as if nothing had happened there, but once Tali and John crossed to the next room, the horrors of the Alarei were clear as water. Casualties from the geth and quarian were spread across the place, with the latter losing more than the former. The pair carefully inspected the area, searching for evidence or a clue that would make them understand the situation better. It wasn't easy for Tali to see her people slaughtered, but she needed to confirm if her father was one of the fallen. Fortunately, her father wasn't one of the deceased, giving her a bit of hope though there was still a lot to cover inside the Alarei.

Seems the quarians tried to put up a fight, but... John paused as he looked around. What caused this mess? He wondered.

"Come on, father, where are you?" murmured Tali.

"I don't think we'll find something here. We'll need to move in deeper," shared John. Tali nodded in agreement.

"Yes. This only tells that my people prevented the geth from escaping the ship. Even if it meant their deaths," she expressed with sadness and respect as she began walking to the next room with John beside her.

The next room seemed to be some cafeteria or gathering hub as various counters, tables and chairs were spread across the place. Similar to the previous room, bodies were also present, only in fewer numbers, and as the pair began their search for clues, they were quickly ambushed by the geth, forcing them to jump to cover as the barrage of bullets scraped their shields. Without wasting time, Tali quickly deployed her attack drone, Chatika, followed by a few of John's grenades, disrupting the initial wave of geth as more rapidly replaced the ones destroyed. As the fight continued, both Tali and John noticed the geth fought similar to the ones back when they were chasing Saren, which made for a quick dispatch of the machines using a combination of old and new tactics until no more geth seemed to reach their spot.

"I don't hear or see more coming to us," said John. "Though I doubt this is the last time we'll see them."

"They're probably creating new strategies based on the results of this fight," assured Tali.

"How much smarter they'll get?"

"Hard to say. They're initially acting like when we first fought Saren but since these geth are, created by the more advanced parts I've been sending to father..."

"So either way, they'll mean trouble."

"Yes. The more we fight them, the smarter and more lethal they'll get."

"We'll have to play defensive and offensive to try and throw them off."

"Let's just hope that would be enough."

The pair moved on as the cafeteria didn't show any signs of clues for the trial or the whereabouts of Tali's father. The following rooms didn't give much either, slowly diminishing their hope. Turning around a corner into a hallway, Shepard saw a room filled with cabinets and study tables. Getting closer, he saw something that piqued his interest.

"Tali, take a look at this," he called as he entered the lab.

"What is it?" asked Tali, following behind.

"A geth drone laying on one of the tables. Or, what's left of it." Tali walked towards the table, inspecting the dissected drone.

"This is one of the storage units I sent to Father," she admitted. "It had parts from a repair drone plus a reflex algorithm that I didn't recognize. I got this on Haestrom."

"On Haestrom?" asked a somewhat surprised John. "But that place was a warzone. How did you manage to salvage iT?

"Before the mission went to hell, we made good progress on evading the geth and getting what we needed. Our suits have more pockets than you think, and we Quarians have learned how to salvage whatever we can whenever we can," she said with pride, causing John to smile. "Within reason, of course. We're not vorcha."

"What made something special to send?"

"Every working part I found during my travels, anything that could be analyzed or integrated into other technologies, was worth noting and sending back to my father. Anything new had priority because it gave us information and clues about how the geth had developed independently."

"Which meant new ways for your people to understand them more. Even fight them better."

"Yes. If the plan of retaking our homeworld is set, then we need to understand the geth before we launch an assault on them." John remained silent for a few seconds. He knew the quarians sooner or later would have to set on a world, but retaking their homeworld back, fighting the geth, it could be suicidal, but it was not his place or right to make that call.

"Anything the drone can tell us about what happened here?" he asked.

"Not by itself."

"Then we keep searching. Time is not on our side this time." Tali nodded, and the pair left the room.

As Tali and John kept advancing more profoundly into the Alarei, little by little, they began finding clues and information about the Alarei's status. They first found a log mentioning something was slowing down their systems. The solution was to take down the firewalls and rebalance load distributions with permission from Tali's father to bypass standard protocols, as following those would take too much time.

After that, they also found specific data results, hacking methods reports from studying individual geth components, new software and weapons testing, and even a few diagrams of geth being built. Tali tried to understand and look for reasons behind all this mess, but when the video of a mother saying sorry, telling her child to be strong and that she loved them before being shot to death by the geth, Tali didn't know what to think anymore.

"Dammit!" shouted Tali. "What was all this, father? You promised you'd build me a house on the homeworld. Was this going to bring us back home?" John gently placed a hand on Tali's shoulder.

"You'll reclaim your homeworld someday, Tali."

"Taking back our planet would only be the beginning," assured Tali. "We'd have to cannibalize our Fleet to rebuild cities and infrastructure. It would take generations of gene therapy to re-adapt our immune systems so we could live without suits again. We'd be adopting our entire culture. Again!" She paused briefly, looking down at the ground. "Sometimes I wonder if it's actually worth it."

"It is," said John. "And I'll help any way I can to make that happen," he promised, causing Tali to lift her head.

"Thank you."

"Come on, let's go find your father." Tali nodded with more confidence in her and continued the search.

"So you also sent geth prime parts to your father?!" asked Shepard as he ducked for cover. John and Tali were right in the middle of the ship, meeting more resistance with each step they took. It was hard to imagine any of the crew being found alive. They had the advantage of being at a higher level than the geth they were fighting.

"It had a double shielding system!" answered Tali, followed by an overload from her omni-tool. John threw his grenades below the stunned geth, blowing them up.

"I think that's all of them," said Tali.

"Looking at the map, we're close to a central hub," said John, interacting with his omni-tool.

"Probably the ship's servers. We should be able to access all the information we need from there," said Tali as she walked down to the lower level with John following behind.

"Tali... I don't want to be a pessimist, but we haven't gotten any help since we boarded the ship. If someone were alive, they would have made contact with us by now."

"They wouldn't risk being found by the geth," countered Tali.

"There's been plenty downtime after each geth fight for them to contact us without risking position, you know that."

"I... I know. It's just... My father wouldn't risk all of this without having a failsafe."

"Then let's hope that whatever failsafe he has is still going." John looked down the hallway they were about to enter. "The hallway seems clear, and there are two small rooms that look like storage.

"Let's check one each. Perhaps we'll find something useful." John nodded, and each placed themselves next to the storage room doors, carefully entering. Other than a few disorganized boxes and shelves, all looked normal.

"Found something?" asked Tali through comms.

"Nothing. Other than a few disorganized shelves and boxes... Seems no one entered here."

"Same here. I guess being close to the central hub meant more order regarding storage."

"Your people definitely know how to store stuff."

"We know how to appreciate and use the space given to us. You should learn from us."

"I've seen your desk in our room, Tali. I wouldn't call that organized."

"That's because I haven't got time to clean up," she justified.

"Yeah yeah. Whatever you say."

"Bosh'tet," playfully insulted Tali, causing John to smile, quickly fading as he noticed something on the storage room floor.

"Is that... blood?" murmured John?

"What did you say?" asked Tali.

John carefully followed the trail of blood, not knowing if it would be another unfortunate dead quarian or a geth trap. The trail seemed to end behind a few containers, so John readied his weapons just in case. His omni-tool was also readying an overload.

"John?" asked a worried Tali after not receiving an answer to her previous question. John sighed as he looked behind the containers only to find another dead body.

"Sorry, Tali. Found another dead body behind a few containers."

"I'll be right with you." John moved the containers so it would be easier to inspect the body. Observing it, he noticed the wound on his stomach though he couldn't say if it were created by a bullet, a cut, or something more, only that it meant a slow death. Even though blood was all around, John noticed something familiar about the quarian.

"Wait... these markings. They look like-"

"Father!" shouted Tali from behind. "No, no, no!" exclaimed Tali as she rapidly ran towards her father's lifeless body, kneeling next to it. "You always had a plan. Masked life signs, o-or, or an onboard medical stasis program, m-maybe." Her voice began to break. "You! You wouldn't... y-you wouldn't." John gently lifted her, turned her around, and hugged her tightly, which Tali reciprocated without much thought. "Damn it! Damn it!" she cried out.

"Hey, hey, it's okay, it's okay. Let it all out," spoke John calmly, assuring his loved one it was okay to let out all those feelings she had been carrying since this all started. After a minute or two, Tali loosened her strength, letting herself rest on John, who would let her remain like this all the time she needed to.

"I... I'm sorry," apologized Tali.

"You got nothing to be sorry about, Tali," assured John as he caressed her back.

"I... I wanted to believe he was still alive. Prove those idiots of the admiralty board wrong, but maybe I was asking for too much."

"We all deserve to hope for the best. And you can still prove the admiralty board wrong." Tali slowly pulled back from John.

"Y-you're right. My father," Tali turned back to her father's body, kneeling again. "Maybe... He would have known I'd come. Maybe he left a message," she said as she pulled her omni-tool out, activating her father's. A small holo projection of him was displayed above the omni-tool.

"Tali. If you are listening to this, then... I am already dead. The geth have gone active in full strength. I don't have much time so listen carefully. Their main hub will be on the bridge. You'll need to destroy it to stop their VI processes from forming new neural links. Make sure Han'Gerrel and Daro'Xen see the data. They must-" the holo projection cut after an explosion.

"Thanks, Dad."

"Tali... The geth cut him off." John knew Tali and her father weren't always expressive with each other. "You don't know how he would have ended that message."

"Yes, I do. He told us how to end this nightmare. Let's finish this and return to the Rayya before the others think we're also dead." John observed as Tali walked away, knowing he could do nothing at the moment, and closely followed behind her.

Among the geth, various types of them exist, but one that rises above all is the Geth Juggernaut. The most armed and fortified unit of the geth. Its presence immediately intimidates all foes on the battlefield, except those who fought throughout the whole galaxy, experiencing everything it throws at them and surviving. Such as the duo giving the Juggernaut a hard fight, only to stumble and fall like the rest of the geth before it.

"I never thought the geth would build one of those here," admitted John.

"Perhaps it was their last resort in defending this place. If this is the console linked to their main hub like father mentioned, then disabling it will shut down any remaining geth," explained Tali as she began interacting with the controls.

"Wait, what are those files?" John pointed out in one of the monitors.

"Let me see. They're... recordings. Some of them are intact. They could tell us how all this mess happened, what father did," said Tali, a bit hesitant.

"We don't have to see them, Tali. If it only brings-"

"No. We have to, I know. I just..." she paused. "...this is terrible, John. I... I don't want to know that he was part of... this." She sighed nervously.

"Hey, I'm here. You're not alone on this." Tali nodded and played the recording.

The recording began with two quarians discussing about a neural network, writing down results and hypotheses around these.
"Do we have enough parts to bring more online?" was suddenly heard, and the image of Rael appeared on the screen.
"Yes. The new shipment from your daughter will let us add two more geth to the network."
"Though I must make note, sir. We're nearing a breakthrough on a systemic viral attack. Perhaps we should inform the Admiralty Board, just to be safe."
"No," objected Rael. "We're too close. I promised to build my daughter a house on the homeworld. I'm not going to sit and wait while the politicians argue."
"We would have an easier time if your daughter could send back more working material for-"
"Absolutely not," denied Rael. "I don't want her to be exposed to any political blowback. Leave my daughter out of this. Assemble new geth with what we have. Bypass security protocols if need be," he ordered.
"As you wish, sir." Rael nodded and left the scene. Seconds later, the recording ended.

"Even if it sounded bad, your father wanted to keep his promise," commented John.

"I never wanted this, John. Keelah, I never wanted this." Tali looked away from the console. "Everything here is his fault!" She yelled angrily, annoyed. "I tried to pretend it didn't point to him, but this... When this comes up in the trial, they'll..." Tali quickly turned towards John. "We can't tell them, not the admirals, not anyone." It was a severe tone in which Tali said those words.

"Tali, without this evidence, you're looking at-"

"Exile. You think I don't know that? You think I want to live knowing that I can never see the Fleet again?" she stated in a sad tone. "But I can't go back into that room and say that my father was the worst war criminal in our people's history. I cannot."

"What makes you think they'll tag your father like that?"

"You don't understand, John. They would strike his name from the manifest of every ship he served on. He would be worse than exile. He'd be a traitor to our people, he... I can't let all the good he did be destroyed for this, John." Both remained silent for a few seconds, each thinking about what to say or do. John wanted to present all they found on the trial to prove Tali did nothing wrong, but if he did, he would hurt Tali in a way he never forgave himself. He exhaled with force,

"Let's return to the Rayya and listen to what the admirals have to say. Deciding what to do will change nothing if we stay here any longer."

"You're my captain in this hearing, John. It's your decision. But please. Don't destroy what my father was," pleaded Tali. John didn't say a word and walked away, thinking about what was to come.

"We need to face facts. There has been no word. There is no reason to think Tali'Zorah survived," said Admiral Koris to the rest of the Admiralty board.

"It's only been a few hours," countered Admiral Raan.

"Enough time for them to have reported back," retorted Koris.

"Shepard was right," said Admiral Gerrel. "Springing the information about Rael on Tali... we practically dared her to take back the Alarei. We killed her. I'm sorry, Raan, but this how things turned out."

"You can't be serious, Gerrel?"

"Raan, as much as I would like to know the end of this, the Admiralty board can't wait all day for one quarian. We all have duties on hold that need to be attended to," stated Admiral Xen. Raan sighed in defeat.

"Very well. Let us continue the trial then." Raan positioned herself on her spot as the voice of the trial, followed by the rest of the Admirals. "Attention all present, this trial will now continue. Following previous statements by the accused and not seeing their return. Is the Admiralty Board prepared to render judgmen-" Raan stopped her sentence as the crowd opened itself, revealing a peculiar duo walking towards the Admiralty.

"Sorry we're late," said Tali.

"You didn't waste time declaring us dead. The Alarei is cleared if that's what you're interested in hearing," threw Shepard. He wasn't going to place nicely this time.

"We apologize, Shepard," spoke Gerrel first. "Your success in taking back the Alarei is... very unexpected," he admitted.

"But also very welcome," added Raan.

"Thank Tali is still loyal to the Fleet and has enough patience to put up with you," commented Shepard bluntly.

"Her loyalty was never in doubt. Only her judgment" shared Koris.

"Perhaps Tali'Zorah can offer something to encourage more trust in her judgment," added Raan.

"Tell us," spoke Gerrel. "Did you find anything that could clarify what happened on the Alarei?" John briefly looked at Tali before walking up to the Admirals.

"John, please..." begged Tali.

"Does Captain Shepard have any new evidence to submit to this hearing?" asked Raan.

"No, I don't," he stated.

"Well then," began Koris. Tali waited for the words that would disconnect her from the Fleet. "I suggest we conclude this trial with-"

"I don't have evidence to present," Shepard cut the Admiral. "Because with everything Tali has done, everything she's proven to be, everything she's done for doesn't need to be put on evidence and be a waste of time of her and my time. Come on, Tali. We're leaving," said Shepard, giving his back to the Admirals. The whole board and crowd were caught off guard by Shepard's actions. Even Tali was surprised, not sure how to react.

"What?!" questioned Raan, confused.

"Captain Shepard, you can't just leave. This is a formal proceeding!" retorted Koris. Shepard immediately turned back.

"Wrong Admiral. This is a sham!" shouted Shepard, pointing at the Admirals. "You're trying to build sympathy for the geth to forestall the war effort!"

"That is completely-" Shepard didn't let Koris finish as he pointed at Gerrel.

"You want all the messy experiments covered up so you can throw your fleet at the geth!"

"I... That's not..." the Admiral was without words.

"Do whatever you want with your ships and people. But leave my crew out of your political bullshit!" stated Shepard with visible and palpable anger. "We have no new evidence. Accept Tali's word, or you can exile the woman who represented the quarians by saving the Citadel from the geth. Your choice" finished Shepard with a dead shot look.

The present crowd, as well as the Admirals, remained silent. Tali was also silent. Never imagining how angry John would get during the trial. She knew John would try and look for the best outcome. She knew John had a way with words. She actually thought John would show the experiments her father had and make it justifiable in front of the admirals, but what she heard now, even she didn't see it coming.


"Are the admirals prepared to render judgment?" finally asked Raan. The admirals looked briefly at each other before bringing their omni-tools out and submitting their votes. Koris looked at Tali and Shepard for a moment, before submitting his. Raan's tension wore off, and her heart slowed down when she saw the results.
"Tali'Zorah, in light of your history of service, we do not find sufficient evidence to convict. You are cleared of all charges." The feelings that disappeared from Raan also vanished from Tali as she heard her aunt's words. Shepard exhaled tirelessly but victorious.

Looks like I did make the right choice in the end. Huh... I wonder how things would have worked the other way, wondered John.

"Commander Shepard," called Raan. "Please accept these gifts in appreciation..." John's omni-tool flashed, indicating something was sent to him and was awaiting approval. "...for you taking the time to represent one of our people."

"With all due respect, Admiral. I didn't represent one of your people. I represented one of mine." Shepard made clear where he stood and how he viewed things during the trial.

"So you did, Shepard," acknowledged Gerrel.

"This hearing is concluded," stated Raan. "Go in peace, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy. Keelah se'lai."

"Keelah se'lai," repeated the rest of the crowd before dispersing into the rest of the plaza or back to their usual activities.

"Thank you, John. For being here for both my father and me. I'm sure if he were alive, he would have appreciated you doing this."

"Tali... I didn't mention your father's work, not because it would ruin him, but because you asked me to," said John without trying to sound rude. "Mentioning him would have hurt you deeply. What he did, what he said... you deserve better."

"I did get better. I got you," she said lovingly. "You always look out for me. Today is just proof of it. I'm starting to wonder if I will ever match your determination."

"You've already done that, Tali. Even more."

"It won't compare to me shouting down at the Admirals, though. I think it's good for them."

"You did call Koris a bosh'tet if I recall correctly. So I say that matches up pretty well." The loving pair shared a small laugh.

"Commander Shepard..." a familiar voice called, causing the duo to turn around. "The admirals thought they were hobbling you by forcing you to represent Tali. I'm glad they were wrong."

"I'm just glad everything worked out in the end. I should be sorry for acting the way I did, but I won't."

"Don't be," agreed Raan. "You have all the right to have acted the way you did in the defense of your crew.

"Thank you, Admiral."

"We should never have charted the trial the way it did. I'm sorry you got involved in all this mess, Tali."

"I have a mix of emotions from all this, Raan. But that's over, there's no point in discussing it further," said Tali bluntly to her aunt.

"Yes, your right. There is something I wish to know. You didn't mention anything about survivors or your father. Did you find him, Tali? I'm sure he would have left you a message if he'd had time." Tali looked away, not sure how to answer.

"We found Rael's body," said John. "He left a message for Tali."

"I can only imagine how horrible this is for you, child, but at least you got to hear your father tell you he loved you." Tali hesitated in answering, as well as feeling a small sting in her stomach.

"Y-yes. Thank you, Raan."

"The other Admirals would like to speak to you as well. Good luck with your mission. No matter how dark it gets, the Fleet is always with you," cited Raan in good faith. "Keelah se'lai."

"Keelah se'lai," repeated Tali, with John nodding lightly. Raan gave a quick hug to Tali, which she gladly accepted, before leaving them alone.

"You all right?" asked John.

"Yeah. Don't worry."


"You called us on the carpet out there, Shepard," suddenly called a voice from behind.

"Admiral Gerrel."

"Commander. You were right. Tali, you shouldn't have been involved in that argument. This was all just greed on our part."

"It's already done, Admiral."

"Yes, what is done is done. We need to move. To which I asked," the Admiral turned towards Shepard. "Answer in all honesty. What did you find over there? You spoke well, but I know a feint when I see it," he said in all seriousness. John turned towards Tali.

"Tali. Is there anything the Admiral should know?" he asked almost as an order.

"We found a lot of dead bodies, Admiral, including my father's. That's all. Whatever research they were doing was destroyed," answered Tali as calmly and seriously as she could. Admiral Gerrel locked his eyes with Tali in a sort of challenge, staring at her for a few seconds before sighting in defeat.

"I'll take your word for it, Tali. Not that I have much of a choice. Fight well and fly safe, kid. Your father would be proud of you," shared the Admiral as he left for his duties.

"That went better than expected," admitted Shepard. "I'd assume he would press more on the matter."

"He's probably not asking, given how the trial went. But he'll probably investigate more on his own later, knowing how he and father worked."

"If my gut's not wrong, when he does find something, I'm sure he won't push for another trial."

"It would be better if they don't find something but with Admirals like Xen, it would be hard for them to miss."

"She's quite persistent when it comes to studying the geth."

"From one point of view, that's a good thing, but on another..."

"Speak of the devil..." murmured John causing Tali to look forward.

"Awe-inspiring speech, Commander Shepard. Seeing those two sob-like children made this trial somewhat worthwhile. But on to the important thing."

"That being...?" asked Tali, not sure if she wanted to know the answer though she knew what was already coming.

"Tell me truly, did you recover any of Rael'Zorah research on the Alarei?" asked Xen. Same question Admiral Gerrel asked.

"Nothing that would help you, admiral," instantly answered Tali.

"Ah, well... Whatever is created can be recreated. In any event, I am pleased that our talk regarding the war conundrum allowed you to help Tali. Her exile would have been unfortunate."

"You should abandon your plans, Admiral," warned Shepard. "They're only going to make the situation worse."

"We shall see, Commander. Many things are impossible until they are done," finished Xen, leaving the plaza. Shepard hated to admit it, but Xen's words were quite true. Lots of things throughout the course of history were considered impossible until someone proved otherwise.

"I'll never figure Admiral Xen out," commented Tali.

"That makes two of us," agreed John.

"Damn, Shepard. Been a while since I saw anyone rail at the admirals like that," said a familiar and welcoming voice."

"I do what I can, Reegar," said Shepard with a bit of smugness in his voice.

"Guess they can't even court-martial you, though." Reegar non-faced Tali. "Glad they're off your back, ma'am. And that you didn't have to give them that evidence you found on the Alarei." Tali twitched her head lightly.

"I didn't say anything about finding evidence, Kal," she said, evading the truth.

"Noticed that, ma'am."

"What will you do now, Reegar?" asked Shepard. "Any idea what your next assignment is going to be?" As a soldier talking to another one, it was inevitable for one to speak about their missions with the other.

"Seem's like I'm going to be escorting more techs around to look for signs of dark energy buildup. Maybe see if they can figure out what going causing it," he answered. "Wherever they send me, it'll have to be less exciting than Haestrom."

"I wouldn't want to repeat that if I'm honest," said Tali, remembering all the chaos of that day.

"Neither do I, ma'am, but there's just something that no other mission will give me after living that."

"I get what you mean, Reegar."

"That you do."

"So, you two heading back to whatever mission you were doing before this mess?"

"Yeah, though perhaps a small break wouldn't hurt."

"You deserve it. I don't know what you been up to after Haestrom, but with that place and this trial, I say you both earned that rest."

"It's been quite the journey," admitted Tali. "You wouldn't believe if we told you what we seen and done."

"Wish I could accompany you, but duty calls. Good luck out there, ma'am. Here's hoping we find ourselves on the battlefield again, Shepard."

"Hopefully, under better circumstances, Reegar."

"Like you said, hopefully."

"Before you go. Between us, what's your take on the war? Are the Admirals really going to try and retake the homeworld?"

"I won't stay away from a fight, but if the admirals throw the Fleet at the geth, all they'll get back is scrap metal. The best bet would be for us to find another way. But a soldier can't say unless his superior asks."

"Hmmm. I see. Thanks, Reegar. Stay safe out there."

"You too, Shepard. Ma'am," and with that, the quarian soldier left the pair.

"With Reegar off the list, there's one person left to speak to."

"And it's not the most appealing one."

"Would there be a problem if we just leave?"

"There shouldn't be any, but out of respect, we should hear what has to say."

"It's your call, Tali."

"The sooner we deal with him, the better I'll feel," she said as she walked towards the Admiral.

"We'll keep pushing them as we always have. This matter changes nothi-"

"Admiral...?" called Tali this time.

"I was wondering when you two would come and speak," said Koris and continued before anyone could say anything else. "I have to admit I'm impressed, Commander Shepard." The way Koris spoke, wasn't of mockery o annoyance. It was now of respect and regret. Surprising both Shepard and Tali. "You changed my view on both of you. You retake the Alarei and helped the daughter of Rael'Zorah. You stood for her when we failed. For that, you have my thanks and respect." Tali and Shepard looked at each other, both clearly not believing Koris' attitude. "I know we haven't always seen each other face to face in good standings, but today changed that, Tali'Zorah. The Commander showed us we were wrong to let our own concerns about the war overshadow the trial."

"Thank you, Admiral. Hearing you say this means a lot to us," thanked Tali, with Shepard nodding in acknowledgment.

"Keep pushing for peace, Admiral," encouraged Shepard. "Though I'll admit war might be closer than peace these days."

"I know, Commander. It's no easy task. We'll just have to wait and let time decide the course of our life. Thanks for the encouragement. Safe travels to both of you."

"Likewise, admiral," responded Tali, letting Koris leave the plaza.

"I sure didn't expect this out of Admiral Koris," admitted John.

"He's not bad. I know that. It's just that the way he always expressed himself annoyed me, but given all we learned today... I can see why he acts this way."

"Leaders always try to look for the best for their people. Even if it means butting his head with the others."

"Sound familiar, don't you think?" joked Tali. John slowly turned his head halfway, staring at Tali with half-closed eyes before chuckling lightly.

"Come on, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy. Let's get back to our ship."

Perhaps being vas Normandy isn't that bad... said Tali to herself, given how she liked the way her name sounded when John said it.

"As you wish, my Captain," said Tali playing along with only the last two words being audible to them.